Module 58


Updated:  02/18/2017

Module 58



Video Editing,

Part IX




and Offline


The online and offline phases of editing are historically associated with videotape. Even though videotape has largely been replaced by disk-based and solid-state recording, in many professional applications the dual online, offline process still has significant advantages.

Offline Editing

The goal of offline editing is to create a EDL (edit decision list) that will be used in putting together the final online version of a production. This can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment using low-resolution copies of the original footage.

In the offline phase a rough cut can be shown to a director, producer, or sponsor for approval. Typically, at this point a number of changes will be made.

An important part of the creative process is trying out many creative possibilities. Hours can be spent on just a few minutes, or even a few seconds, of a production. This can become prohibitive expensive if full online facilities and personnel are used.

Once the major decisions are made offline, the EDL that is generated can be taken to editing personnel skilled in color balancing scenes, audio sweetening, smoothing out transitions, visual effects, etc., to put together the final (online) version of the production.

" The specific expectations and roles vary from place to place and job to job, but generally the offline editor cuts the show, and the online editor finishes it for release."

-Professional editor via e-mail.

However, when time is limited and optimum technical and artistic quality are not major concerns, you can skip over the offline phase. 

For example, in preparing a news segment for broadcast even a high-quality laptop computer equipped with one of the many available editing programs can be used to create a final ▲news package for broadcast.

Handling Different Standards

One of the major problem areas in editing footage from different sources is incompatible video standards -- not only the different broadcast standards, but the differences between the 24p and 29.97 (30 fps) shooting and editing standards.

Unless you coordinate your standards throughout the entire process of shooting, editing, and final presentation, you can end up with some significant technical problems.

We won't get into the various compatibility issues -- they get pretty technical -- but suffice it to say, if you know you will be dealing with different video standards, especially in editing, you need to consult a knowledgeable engineer before you start.


Digital Editing With a Video Server

When a video server is used, the original footage can be viewed and at least rough edited by anyone with a computer link to the server and access to a compatible editing system.

This is generally someone within the specific production facility; but, thanks to high-speed Internet connections, it could even be someone in another city-or even in another country.

In the case of animation and visual effects, which are labor intensive, projects are often electronically transferred to countries where labor is less expensive.

This may involve repeated viewings, edits, modifications and "tweaks." Digital information stored on a computer disk does not degrade with repeated access the way it does when it's recorded on videotape.

The two main approaches used in newsrooms in editing server-based footage are - covered here.

Six Quick Tips for File Server Editing

1. Although you may want to shoot everything on location that you think you could possibly use, when it comes to uploading or capturing this footage on a file sever or computer hard disk, you will want to use a bit of restraint.

After reviewing the footage and making a rough paper-and-pencil edit, you can upload only the footage that you are reasonably certain you will use.

Not only does excess footage take up valuable hard drive space, but prodding through this footage during editing adds considerable time to the editing process.

2. After the footage is uploaded, trim the front and back ends of the segments to get rid anything you're not going to use. This will also speed up editing and reduce storage space, plus, it will make the clips easier to identify on the editing screen.

3. Once this is done, look for connections between segments; specifically, how one segment will end and another will start.

Look for ways to make scenes flow together without jarring jump cuts in the action, composition, or technical continuity.

4. Find appropriate cutaways. In addition to enhancing the main theme or story they should add visual variety and contribute to the visual pace.

5. Use transition effects sparingly. Although some editing programs feature 101 ways to move from one video source to another, professionals know that fancy transitions can be distracting and can get in the way of the message — not to mention looking pretentious.

6. Use music creatively and appropriately. "Silence" is generally distracting, causing viewers to wonder what's wrong with the sound. Finding music that supports the video without calling attention to itself (unless, of course, it's a music video) can be a major task in itself.

If you have a bit of talent in the music area, you might consider a do-it-yourself approach to electronically composing your music.

The - Sonic Desk Smart Sound program, among others, will not only give you full control of your music, but it will eliminate copyright problems.

Sometimes simple music effects will be all that you will need.

The latest nonlinear editors have many features that both speed up and improve video and audio editing. We'll just give two examples.

Some editors can "read" or understand the spoken dialogue in video footage and match it up with a written script or with words you type in. 

 If you happen to have hours of video footage and are looking for the point where someone said, "Eureka, I found it,"  the editing system can search through the footage the cue up the part of the video where that phrase is spoken.

Another useful feature that is briefly touched on elsewhere is image stabilization.

Let's assume you have some shaky footage  -- possibly involving a moving vehicle. 

The first thing you do is freeze the beginning of the footage on the screen.  Then you find a clearly defined object near the center of the scene and draw a box around it, as shown on the left. (Note motorcycle headlight.)  This becomes an anchor point reference.

Then you crop the whole image to give the process "working room."

Once you roll the footage the editor holds the selected area still, eliminating minor shake and movement in the original scene.

One of the most sophisticated postproduction systems and one that will stabilize shaky scenes is by red dot Adobe. Although many of these systems are quite expensive, companies such as Adobe offer discounts to students and teachers.

Creating a Paper-and-Pencil Edit

Regardless of what approach you take in editing, previewing footage and making a paper-and-pencil edit can save considerable time.

For one thing, you may not really know what you have -- what to look for and what to reject -- until you have a chance to review all of your footage.

By jotting down your tentative in and out time codes as you view your original footage for the first time, you can add up the time of the segments and get an idea of how long your production will be.

At that point, and assuming you have to make the project a certain length, you will know if you need to add or subtract segments.

A form for a paper-and-pencil EDL (edit decision list), such as the abbreviated one shown below, will give you an idea of how this data is listed.

Videotape Log


Reel #

Start Code

End Code

Scene Description


























There are also computer programs designed for logging time-codes and creating EDLs. By using a Palm Pilotmouse, the indicated scenes can be moved around on the screen and assembled in any desired sequence.

There are EDL programs and time-code calculators available as software for PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), such as the one shown on the left. Similar applications are available for the iPad.

If you are preparing a news script on a computer, the time codes and scene descriptions can be typed in while you view the scenes on a monitor.

When you finish logging all of the scenes, you can split the computer screen horizontally, putting the time code and scene listings on the top, and your word-processing program for writing your script on the bottom.

By using a small camcorder playback and a laptop computer producers have been able to create an entire EDL while flying from the East to the West Coasts of the United States.

A savvy editor can take the same script, footage and on-camera performances and subtly or even dramatically change the meaning of a video piece. Editing, when skillfully done, can be the most creative phase of the production process.

The writer learned a major lesson about this (and about humility) - early in his television career.

This brings us to the end of the modules on editing. At this point in this cybercourse you should be able to write a production proposal, do a decent job on a script, plan out a production, shoot on-location footage, and assemble what you shoot into a logical and coherent "package."  

In the next module we'll move into the TV studio where the production process takes on a number of new dimensions.

*To conform to what is taking place in the industry, we will henceforth be dropping the hyphen in many video terms, including online and offline.

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